Lineal lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez, who is coming off a controversial majority decision loss to welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao in November, will return to headline Top Rank's split-site pay-per-view card on Saturday night (9 ET, $44.95) from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and the new Mexico City Arena in Mexico City, Marquez's hometown.
But Marquez, one of boxing's best, isn't facing another star fighter such as Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr., or even Juan Diaz or Michael Katsidis, past opponents with well-known names. Instead, he is returning home to fight for a vacant interim junior welterweight belt against a fighter who is an unknown to most of the world: Sergey Fedchenko of Ukraine.
So what do we know about Mr. Fedchenko? For one, he has a terrific record (30-1, 13 KOs), albeit one built against nondescript competition. He is also 31 -- seven years younger than Marquez -- and has been a junior welterweight for his entire 10-year pro career. The fighters are just about the same height. And because Marquez is a popular, well-known star and Fedchenko is as obscure as they come, obviously Marquez is the (big) favorite.
Fedchenko's most notable fight came in 2009, when he faced South African contender Kaizer Mabuza, who scored a TKO win against former junior welterweight titlist Kendall Holt in a title eliminator before being knocked out by Zab Judah in a fight for a vacant title. Mabuza handed Fedchenko his only loss -- by majority decision (in Ukraine).
As for Fedchenko's notable wins? There aren't many to pick from, but here's the best I can come up with: He outpointed former titlist (and now ultimate journeyman opponent) DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley in November 2010. This past November, Fedchenko outpointed France's Willy Blain, a 2004 Olympian probably best known in the U.S. for a seventh-round knockout loss to future titleholder Lamont Peterson on HBO in an undercard bout.
Other than that, Fedchenko's résumé is a wasteland.
I did watch some footage of him on YouTube (there are a few fights on there, if you're interested). Fedchenko looks like your typical European stand-up boxer. He doesn't have a lot of power and he isn't particularly fast. He does have a good jab. He seems to have heart, as well as fundamental boxing skills. He also swells and has been cut.
One thing I'm confident in saying: He won't be hard for Marquez to find. Marquez is a great counterpuncher, and if Fedchenko does come to him, or even stays in decent range, he'll probably get tattooed. Most likely, Fedchenko will try to work off the jab to control Marquez, which is a lot easier said than done against a future Hall of Famer.
I asked Sean Gibbons, a boxing lifer and a matchmaker for Marquez's promoter, Fernando Beltran, for his scouting report on Fedchenko, whom he has seen.
"Like a lot of European fighters, he boxes tall and likes to stay on the outside, working behind his gloves that are held high in front of his face," Gibbons said.
Gibbons concurred that if Fedchenko is to have any prayer of winning, he would be best served by working behind his jab.
"He is not overly aggressive, and when pushed back looks to cover when you're punching and waits for you to stop so he can get off," Gibbons said. "He's not much on countering. I do not see an inside game."
All of that, of course, bodes well for Marquez --although at his age and with so many rough fights in his past, you never know when time will catch up to him.
Gibbons' assessment of the fight: "Marquez should systematically break him down, round by round, to the body and head. Sergey has never faced the likes of Marquez. I do not see the power to hurt Marquez. As the fight wears on, he will try to move away from Marquez. But as Marquez steps it up, he will have to stand and fight at some point. I see Marquez breaking him down, and possibly a middle- to late-round stoppage or clear decision."